Life Is Beautiful

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L-R: Fred Astaire, George and Ira Gershwin

Fred Astaire met George Gershwin around 1916 when they were both about 17 years old and  George was working at Remick’s music publishing house. Fred and his sister Adele were searching for material for their vaudeville act. Astaire remembered in a later interview: “We would tell George how much we wanted to do a musical comedy, and he’d say, ‘Why, so do I! And some day I’m going to write one for you.'”

And indeed he did, with the Astaires starring in Gershwin shows starting with 1924’s Lady, Be Good! and Fred popularizing countless Gershwin songs including “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” “A Foggy Day,” and “Nice Work if You Can Get It.”

Fred was a talented pianist and drummer, besides, dancing, acting, and singing. His biggest hit as a composer was with his song “I’m Building Up To An Awful Let-Down” with lyrics by Johnny Mercer. A complete list of his songs can be found at alsodances.net. An example of his piano playing can be seen in this song from Let’s Dance. Fred plays his own composition at the 1:55 mark.

Proof of Fred’s confidence in his own songwriting abilities was evident in 1936, while working on the film Shall We Dance. Astaire rejected a Gershwin ballet song and decided to write one himself in its place. It was not used.

Just as Astaire is usually not remembered for his songwriting, Gershwin is hardly recognized for his well-developed sense of dancing and choreography. Once, during rehearsals for Lady, Be Good!, Gershwin happened by while Astaire was stuck on an ending to a dance number. Gershwin demonstrated his dance solution to their problem and it turned out to be a “knockout applause puller,” according to Astaire.

You can hear Fred Astaire’s and Tony Bennett’s recordings of “Life Is Beautiful” on YouTube etc., but the sheet music was not readily available online. But now it is!

Fake-book Style Sheet Music PDF for Life Is Beautifullife-is-beautiful

And here is how that sheet music sounds.

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